‘There is nothing a man can do that a woman can’t

Kelly Roden, kbbreview100 member and owner of Meliora Kitchens, Bedrooms and Bathrooms in Sheffield, has had a positive experience in the industry but would like to see more women moving into trades roles

Q: What’s been your experience as a woman in the kitchen industry?

A: My experience within the KBB industry has, on the whole, been fairly positive. When I look at it objectively, there are occasions of systemic sexism, an expectations of my femininity and situations I wish I could go back to and speak out against. 

I have grown, too, as a person and feel able to now hold my own in any room, even though a lot of the time I am one of only two or three women there. 

I seek out other women who have similar businesses to ours and find comfort in those relationships. We encourage and help each other where needed and I feel the need for us to be colleagues rather than competition. In a very competitive industry where a culture has formed for price beating and matching, I am very much of the mind set there is more than enough business for us all without that kind of cut throat attitude. 

I believe it lends itself to a better client experience too – they should be buying from the package that meets their needs the most not whoever is willing to undercut the most. It devalues our industry and the time and effort we put into all we do. 

Q: What advice would you give to other women looking to emulate your success?

A: As a business owner, for me it is about owning what you know, what you want to achieve and understanding what your strengths and weaknesses are. Building relationships has been the key to us having even a modicum of success, it is so important to be a good and honest person, regardless of your sex. 

For a kitchen designer role, it’s understanding the industry, how to design for the client and how to design for a fitter too – technical knowledge and understanding what is possible was a game-changer for me. I spent time in a manufacturing environment and this changed my whole perspective on design. 

I think there needs to be an initiative to encourage women and girls at school level into the physically site-based roles in our industry

Q: Do you feel women are underrepresented in the KBB industry? 

A: Yes, but I believe this is due to the heritage of an industry that was built on a traditional sales mind set. It is changing and evolving and more women feel they can step into it now – it has so many elements similar to the car sales industry, another that is male-dominated and where women haven’t wholly played a role for a long time. I believe many women have been in support roles for a long time and with more women studying areas of design, and the industry becoming less sales-minded, I think we will see a change in the way we, as an industry, are perceived too. 

For me, the biggest push should be women in trades roles. I think there needs to be an initiative to encourage women and girls at school level into the physically site-based roles in our industry – project management, tiling, decorating, plastering, bricklaying, joinery etc. 

Q: How do you think the KBB industry as a whole would benefit from having more women in a variety of roles? 

A: I think every industry and situation needs balance and perspective. It is no secret men and women have different strengths and weaknesses. I find women are less inclined to have time to be emotional and take offence, we are practical and organised by nature, we are creative and passionate. I truly believe there is nothing a man can do that a woman can’t – and vice versa.  

Q: In your experience how do consumers – male and female – react to female designers?

A: I have had numerous conversations with our female clients, who truly appreciate meeting a female in and through the design process. Many comment that it feels less sales-led and more about them. They ask about the emotive elements and we explore deeper parts of the spaces we are designing – similarly this approach does not work with everyone, but being able to swing from one to the other is very much needed.  Being able to adapt is key to surviving in an industry such as ours. 

Q: Who would you say makes most of the decisions when it comes to the design and purchase? 

A: In my own experience I would say the female element of a client partnership will lead the decision-making process. They have generally spent time on the likes of Pinterest and Instagram sourcing their inspiration and know what is needed from a space. The male element is generally practical or financial and usually super-keen on the gadgets available – usually time-saving or something a little more unique to peak their interests. We also sometimes very much have the opposite of this, too. 

Q: As one of the few women that holds a prominent role in the industry, do you feel you have a part to play in encouraging other women to pursue a KBB career? 

A: I will always encourage anyone of any sex, race, religion or ability to find a role within our industry. We need to be wholly rounded as a KBB community to ensure the consumer has the most appropriate end result. But, yes, I do feel a responsibility to show it is much more female-friendly than it may seem. 

Q: What do you think is the future of the KBB industry when it comes to diversity? 

A: I’ve seen a sharp shift in the past three years. I believe the independent market particularly has moved forward hugely. We could be so forward-thinking and diverse across the board, but it is an industry noted for being a little stuck in its ways and the newer breed of us business owners are starting to buck the trend. We react quicker than ever to trends and I believe the consumer is more open to something unique and looking for a different experience of the industry from the one they have had in the past.

Listen to the International Women’s Day Special on The kbbreview Podcast.  on The kbbreview Podcast. Listen now using the player below or search ‘kbbreview’ in a podcast app.

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